Monday, March 4, 2013

~~STONE GATE: Chapter Eleven--As Mad As I~~

            I come to a stop when I hit the edge of town.
          I would have happily walked all the way across the globe had someone not stopped me.
          I sensed them before I ever saw them. Well, sensed one of them, at least.
          I looked at them, and halted. They were still a few miles away, cresting a hill, but I knew them instantly.
          I waited for them to come to me before I spoke, “What brings you here, brother?”
          Ari merely looked at me, raised his right hand, and wracked my entire body with pain.
          I longed to faint, to escape, but I couldn’t.
          I could only scream.
          I felt my bowels loosen, my voice go hoarse, my skin coat itself with sweat, my eyes burn and blast. I felt my knees bend, my body lifting into the air, fire blanketing my skin.
          The agony lasted for forever.
          It was only when my mind could take no more and was finally lowering me into the abyss of unconsciousness that I was finally released.
          I hear, as if carried on the wind, an argument between two familiar voices.
          “Leave him; he couldn’t know!”
          “That’s exactly why I must be certain. Don’t you see? We can’t let him be free! He knows too little!”
          “He’s your BROTHER!”
          “Even more reason to be certain! Look through my family tree—have any of us been worth trusting?”
          “Then why do we trust you, if we follow your reasoning?”
          These next words are hisses, angry and forced: “Because I have been TRAINED.”
          There’s the sound of a scuffle, then all-too recognizable shrieks of agony.
          Thankfully, my mind gives way to the darkness of unconsciousness before I hear any more.
          ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~       
          I wake to the familiar scent of pine needles. Smiling in the dreamy way of those not yet awake, I murmured, “Hello, Nalika. Long time no see….”
          Instead of hearing her soft voice, I hear one that terrifies me, “Who’s Nalika, brother mine?”
          I jerk to my feet, almost falling from the instantaneous wave of vertigo that flows over me. With shaking hands, I reach for my rapier and my knife, only to touch empty sheathes.
          “As if they would have done you any good,” Ari says, rising to his feet. He gestures to where my weaponry lies, beside him and across the small field I found myself in. He brushed back his long black hair, as he approached me slowly, “I am a Sourceror, after all.”   
          I watched him, cautiously. He merely continued, watching my eyes. When he was less than a hundred feet away, I started backtracking involuntarily, my eyes wide. He laughed, and held out a hand to me. “Don’t be afraid,” Ari said, pausing mid step, “I am not planning on hurting you, I merely want to talk.”
          I don’t stop backing away.
          I can’t take my eyes off the sight of his right hand, raised and pointing at me.
          Ari sighs, and lowers his hand. “Brother, come here, please. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you force me to.”
          I pause. I couldn’t run, could I? And, if I complied, maybe he would stay true to his word.
          So, summoning my courage—such as it is—I walked towards him. “Hello, Ari.” I forced out.
          He smiles, and settles, legs crossed, upon the earth. He pats the ground beside him, smiling. “Come here, brother,” he calls softly, gesturing me forward with a wave of his left hand, “You have no reason to fear me now.”
          I take a seat where he wants me to, my eyes unwaveringly focused on his gaze, “What do you want from me?”
          “Nothing. Nothing you’re unwilling to give. All I want is answers to my questions, ones that are truthful and contain no questions,” he looked at me, and I nodded, gesturing for him to continue, “What do you know about the Infinite?”
          I shrugged, and said, “Nothing, I’m afraid; what is…” I cut myself off, nearly biting off my tongue in my waste to halt the words.
          “Very close to stumbling, brother, too close. Watch yourself more,” Ari admonished, smiling to himself a bit before continuing, “What do you know about the Stone Gate?”
          “Nothing,” I said, working hard to keep the question and the fear out of my voice, “Nothing at all.”
          “Good answer,” he says approvingly, “What do you know about Liandros’ execution?”
          I shuddered, and closed my eyes tightly. He had caused it, so why was he asking me? “I know he’s not dead. He’s immortal and trapped.”
          “True. Do you know why you can’t free him?” Ari asks, eyeing me carefully, darkly.
          “N-no…” I stammer, trying to keep the question from my voice.
          Ari smiles, faintly, and shifts his grip on my arm idly, so that the gold of the bracelet is scarcely an inch from my bare skin. “I would free him if I could, brother, but the problem is to do so would be an act of treason, one that would get every Sourceror in existence to turn on me, so I cannot free him for you. I cannot face them all. I can kill a few of my own kind before the rest take me down, but all that would accomplish, my dearest brother, would for him to be tortured and then returned to the grave. After, of course, ‘witnessing’ your death.”
          I eye him sharply, my mouth opening. But before I can speak a question, Ari rests a finger upon my lips, silencing me.
          He continues without a pause, “Ah-ah-ah, brother. I see the question in your eyes—no need to speak it. We elves are a cold and cruel species, one that only lives to destroy and see those that harm us in agony. Our beauty hides the horror within—we are the perfect weapons. We are beautiful in every way—no one can resist an elven suitor. But within we have no hearts, no souls. Elves by nature are living statues—we cannot feel. We are stone inside.
          “Why I brought up that entertaining bit of twisted reality is this: We enjoy nothing better than the pain of others, and your Liandros caused us pain, so to pay him back, the agony will be even greater for him than it was for us. They cannot truly kill you—they can only make it look like they did—but yet it will be enough to torment Liandros for all eternity.”
          I just sit there looking at him. Ari laughs, and shift the bracelet away from me. There’s a split second of silence, before he asks, “What do you know about the Source?”
          “Only what you have told me, along with a few others.” I say quickly, my mind whirling.
          “What do you know about the Source?” he repeats, his hand resting upon my arm with gentle force.
          “I know it’s evil. I know it only wants to kill, I know it is everywhere, sees everything, knows everything, and the people who can access it are driven mad by it. I know…”
          I was cut off by the tightening of his hand on my arm.
          “What was that last one?” he whispers fiercely, his voice scarce more than a hiss from between clenched teeth.
          I trembled involuntarily, waves of animal terror rocketing through my trapped arm, “That-that it drives people mad….” I force out, barely able to form the words, thinking myself doomed for my unwary words.
          I watched him, unable to move, waiting for him to send waves of agony through his right hand and into my arm, or worse yet, to adjust his grip only a bit and touch the bare skin of my forearm with the cold gold of the bracelet.
          Instead, he laughed, his head thrown back. “Good answer!” he cried between shaking laughs. “All too true, brother!” I was about to speak when he cut me off, crying out cheerily, “Laugh with me, Kelree! It is a rare day when we can celebrate good fortune!”
          Thinking myself just as mad as him, I laughed with him.
          Eventually, just as the pair of us were winding down, he let go of my arm. He slid a few feet away, his eyes compassionate, “I know you fear me, Kelree, and that it is my own fault. I want you to know that I am truly sorry for the pain I caused you, but if you were as mad as I you would forgive me for it, because you would understand. But, until you are as mad as I, you can only have my apology and hope to understand one day that I had no choice but to do what I did.
          “But, for now, shall we move on, and I can return you to Taurion, where the three of us can drink until we die.”
          Truth be told, Liana, that sounded like a wondrous idea.
          Especially the dying part.
          ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~       
          I get very, very drunk. Very drunk. And I realize something: When Larind is drunk, he gets funny. When Ari is drunk, he gets mean. When I get drunk, I get hyper.
          When all of us get drunk at the same time?
          You don’t really want to know.
          Suffice to say, I now know more about how elves spend their nights than I ever wanted to know. How much am I missing? was a thought that passed often through my mind, along with others you can live a long and happy life without knowing.
          But there is useful knowledge I managed to, in a flash of drunken brilliance, managed to wheedle out of them.
          As it would take too long to write down everything they said, I shall put it in list form.
·        The Infinite is the sentient being that controls the Source, that IS the Source
·        The bracelets, called Keys, were created long ago by a man driven mad by a strange ability to sense the Infinite
·        He was put to death for witchcraft
·        Ten years later, an unwary slave cleaning a storage area put on the bracelet in the palace of Je-Herla near Stavaks
·        The ruins are still deemed unsafe now, two hundred years later
·        The Infinite was studied for a decade before it was fully understood
·        The instant it was, every Sourceror was killed, their bracelets locked away
·        When the orcs began their attack a few decades ago, the bracelets were unlocked and the Sourcerors trained solely among the elves
·        Five years ago, the training of Sourcerors picked up in earnest, secretly
·        No one except for the Lady of Slemerria knows why
          I could not get any of them to tell me a single thing about the Stone Gate, but you can guess from the title of this narrative that it ends up being the most important thing in the world very, very shortly.
          ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~       
          I might as well skip quite a while here. During this time, there is healing of wounds, sharing of stories, and slowly, so slowly, do the three of us become friends.  Every last injury is forgotten, and we finally get to trusting each other.
          None of us ever speak about Liandros, but during our most unguarded moments Ari and I share a single look, one filled with understanding, shame, and anger. We know that there are wounds that will never heal, knowledge that will never fade. He killed Liandros, and even though I know that was never his intention, he still had caused the death of my best friend in the world.
          No, I reminded myself, Liandros isn’t dead. He’s….he’s immortal.
          And buried alive.
          My eyes drip tears and I sigh, forcing away the memories, forcing away the guilt. I do not want to think of him: I loved him!
          And he was going to remain trapped there for all eternity….
          And, ah yes, somewhere in this time, the manor is handed over to Taurion permanently.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love you, random stranger. Thanks for dropping by, and for dropping a line. --Half Mad Writer